by Todd Camplin

Ideas are still being batted around about the future of the UT Dallas Art Barn. University officials might
have shifted their initial desires to close the building completely, to possibly allowing further exhibitions
and classes to take place in the space after this spring semester. It would seem that for now, this
minimal structure might have a little more life left. However, it will take alumni, students, faculty and
those that desire great art exhibition to convince the University that a seamless transition must occur.

Whether the transition is remodeling, adding an additional structure, or sadly even replacing the Art
Barn; it is important that a strong functional gallery space remains on campus. Without the Art Barn
there would not be a place on campus to launch Creative thesis shows for BFA, MFA, or PhD students.
This is like telling a scientist that they can do all the research they want, but they can’t publish the
paper after they have formulated conclusions. Sculpture and printmaking facilities must also remain
intact to have a fully functional Fine Arts department that will attract the most talented students. UT
Dallas can not afford to wait a few years to build another building that will house these essential
spaces. Not having an art gallery on campus is like the United States not having a vehicle to send
astronauts into space. Both are relinquishing control of message and prestige to others. UT Dallas
needs to continue to have a voice in the visual culture without any lost time.
Back when I was getting my Masters in Humanities there, Richard Brettell curated an incredibly
imaginative competition with architecture students that envisioned a campus that celebrated
the arts. As I recall there was some reworking of the Art Barn space. UTA students recently tackled
the idea of maintaining as Greg Metz put it, this “ iconic minimalist structure.” So, the
conversations have been on going about this important space. I just hope the University
officials can start to see the space through the lens of those that love it.   

For many, the Art Barn has sentimental value. I asked artist and UT Dallas alumni Christi Nielsen
what the space meant to her, and her thoughts on the fate of the Art Barn. “The Art Barn was
much more than a building for classes. It was a space for making a mess, a space for showing
pristine works. It was a learning space, it was a resting space. You saw students pulling their
hair out in frustration, you saw students sleeping on couches. It truly was a space in which to
exist. It was like its own little foreign country on the UTD campus. I’m a bit sentimental. I
remember it fondly, of course, because that’s where I came alive. When I learned of the
Art Barn’s eventual demise, I immediately went to visit. I walked through every room I
could and photographed. It smelled exactly the same. It reeked of… action? creativity?
mess? Process. It reeked of process. Of people figuring things out. It might smell like something
different for someone else, but that’s what it was for me. I figured things out there. I’m
unbelievably sad to see it go.” I could not say it more eloquently.

So many great exhibitions and art happenings have occurred and made an important
impact on the North Texas culture. I can not even begin to list them all. So many artists
have come out of there and have impacted the culture worldwide.  The value of what
the Art Barn has done for people would be hard to quantify. I hope everyone at UT Dallas
will see the value of this creative space as I do, and save the essential functions the space
provides us all.

thanks to Greg Metz and Christi Nielsen.
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